Before we delve into the depths of Anne Kingston’s delicious, decadent delight (The Meaning of Wife–I hope you’ve had time to pick up a copy!)— let’s talk about “wife.”
When I hear the word, I’m immediately hit with a wave of connotations: wedding dresses, Father of the Bride, housework, husbands, love?, divorce, yoga class, soccer mom, supermom, second, _____’s wife, loss of identity, work, swap, wedding rings, diamonds, trophys, gold diggers, happily ever after, proposals, the second shift, First Lady, the 1950s, partnership, ownership, equality?, and many, many, more things. I was having trouble sorting through all my wife-baggage, so I enlisted the help of my greatest resources: my friends, family, and Google — This is what I found:
Wikipedia tells me that the term has Middle English, Old English, and Germanic roots meaning “woman,” and Indo-European roots meaning “veiled or clothed,” allegedly referring to wedding veils. “Wife” simply meant “woman” at one point in time, and had nothing to do with marriage, as evidenced in words that remain today like “midwife.”
Who remembers Fairie Tale Theater? Having partially defined my childhood, I can’t talk about “wife” and not mention their version of the Princess and the Pea. (This was also the first thing a relative thought of when I asked about “wife”.) Their Prince is bored and “needs something more, something to make his relatively perfect life complete.” He thinks he might need a pet, like a little dog or a hamster– the Fool informs him that no, in fact, he needs a wife. “A wife?” “Yeah.” “Would that be better than a hamster?” “Much.” Watch a clip (~5:10 is where this clip takes place).